Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

BACKGROUND

This is a play by Shakespeare about Julius Caesar and how he gets killed by his political enemies. Caesar was a famous Roman leader. This is a tragedy so almost all the main characters die in the end.

MAIN CHARACTERS

Julius Caesar: He is one of main characters and who the play is based on. All the people of Rome like Caesar and want him to be king. Caesar thinks a lot of himself but he is a decent guy. He gets stabbed to death by his political enemies who are afraid of him.

Marcus Brutus: A roman senator and friend to Caesar. He is an aristocrat and has some money. Some other Senators convince him that Caesar has too much power and is a tyrant so he helps to kill Caesar. He is the object of the famous line from this play…et tu, Brute? (and you, Brutus?)

Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony): He is one of Caesar’s close friends. He takes over after Caesar gets killed along with Caesar’s son and another guy, Lepidus. He goes after the guys who killed Caesar.

Octavius Caesar (Octavian): Julius Caesar’s adopted son who takes over after he dies.

Cassius: A roman senator who is one of the guys who conspires and kills Caesar. Caesar never trusted him. Cassius is a friend of Brutus also.

Portia: Wife of Brutus.

Calpurnia: Wife of Julius Caesar.

A Soothsayer: A soothsayer is a guy who predicts the future. This guy tells Caesar to beware the Ides of March. The Ides of March is the 15th of March and is the day Caesar gets killed.

Cinna: A conspirator to kill Caesar.

Titinius: Cassius' good friend.

Casca: A conspirator.

Messala: Brutus' good friend.

PLOT

This play starts out with an argument between a group of citizens and two roman tribunes named Flavius and Marullus. The common people are celebrating Caesar’s victory over the sons of Pompey (an old noble roman guy) and Flavius and Marullus don’t like it. They tell the people to go home. Then the story moves to Caesar walking through Rome with his wife and friends and a big crowd. Then the soothsayer comes up to Caesar and tells him to "Beware the ides of March". Caesar brushes him off and keeps going. Cassius and Brutus hang back and start talking. Cassius starts to work on Brutus a bit about how bad it would be if Caesar became king. Brutus says he likes Caesar a lot but he does not want him to be king. Brutus tells Cassius that they will talk later about it.

Caesar comes back from talking to the people of Rome and doesn’t look happy. He tells Antony on the side that he doesn’t trust Cassius. Then, Brutus and Cassius ask this guy Casca why Caesar looks unhappy and Casca tell them that Caesar was offered the crown three times and he refused it three times. Casca makes it seem like Caesar was just acting like he didn’t want the crown to make it seem like he wasn’t power hungry. Then Brutus and Casca leave and Cassius makes it known that he will throw a note through Brutus’ window that night. The message will appear like it has been sent by many roman citizens concerned over Caesar’s power.

That night is full of strange goings on. Lots of weird visions appear and it is stormy out. Bad things are in the air. Cassius and Casca talk. Supposedly the Senate of Rome is going to crown Caesar king tomorrow. Cassius says he will kill Caesar then and convinces Casca to be involved in his plan. Then this guy Cinna who is on the plot comes along and they all discuss how good it would be to get Brutus to be involved in their conspiracy. Then Cassius gets Cinna to throw the message through Brutus’ window.

Brutus is at his house and he can’t sleep. He is worrying about Caesar. He has no personal problem with Caesar, since he is friends with him but he is worrying about how Caesar might change if he is crowned king. He decides that it’s too risky to let him become king because he might become a tyrant. Then Cassius and the other conspirators show up and they plan their assassination. The conspirators want to kill Antony too but Brutus says no because he thinks that they will look too bloodthirsty and dishonorable. He says that it is not necessary (big mistake). Brutus then talks about how they have to kill Caesar and make it look noble. Who knows how a bunch of guys stabbing another guy to death can look noble but it is important to Brutus that it appears that way.

Then Brutus’ wife comes in and wants to know what is going on. She says she is his wife and deserves to know. He says he will tell her all about it later. Then the play cuts to Caesar’s house. He too is talking with his wife. She tells him not to go out that day because she thinks bad things are going to happen. She is a smart lady. Caesar doesn’t want to listen to her but he gives in to her and says he will say he is sick and stay home. Then the conspirators show up acting all friendly like. Caesar tells them he isn’t going to go to the Senate today because his wife wants him to stay home. They basically say…you are going to stay home the day you are supposed to be crowned king because your wife had a bad dream? Caesar decides to go.

Then, a friend of Caesar’s named Atremidorus writes Caesar a note telling him to beware of Brutus and Cassius and crew. He is going to try and give it to him as Caesar walks to the Senate. Caesar comes walking with all the conspirators with him. That soothsayer warns Caesar again about the Ides of March. Then Atremidorus tries to give Caesar his note but Cassius brushes him to the side and tells him to bring it to the Capitol. Then Caesar is in the middle of a speech to the Senate and the conspirators stab him to death. Brutus stabs him last and Caesar says, "Et tu, Brute?" Basically saying…you too betray me Brutus? Then, all the conspirators start yelling that tyranny is dead and they dip their hands in Caesar’s blood.

Then, Antony’s servant comes to Brutus asking Brutus if Antony can come near without being killed also. Brutus says sure. Antony comes and sees Caesar dead and is very upset. Brutus tries to tell him they had good reason to kill Caesar. Antony then shakes hands each of the bloody hands of the conspirator telling them he will reserve judgement until he hears why they had to kill Caesar. Antony then wants to speak at the funeral. Brutus agrees but Cassius is against it. Everyone leaves and Antony is alone with the body of Caesar. Antony is really sad and pissed at the conspirators. He might have acted nice earlier but that was because he didn’t want to be killed. He plans on speaking at the funeral and getting the people angry with the guys who killed Caesar. He talks to a servant of Caesar’s son Octavius and tells him to tell Octavius to stay outside of Rome because it’s not safe for him right now.

Then, everyone is at the marketplace in Rome for Caesar’s funeral. Brutus gets up and speaks to the people and says that he loved Caesar but he had to kill him because of his ambition. He acts all noble and makes it seem like he was saving Rome from Caesar. All the people think Brutus is great and support him. Then Marc Antony comes in with Caesar’s body. He speaks to the crowd with Brutus’ permission. He begins a famous speech with "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." Then he basically rips apart Brutus saying that Caesar wasn’t a threat and he was a great man. The crowd is getting angry now at the killers of Caesar. Then Antony reads the will of Caesar that says Caesar leaves all his money and land to the people of Rome. This really gets the crowd going and a riot starts. Antony has got the people behind him now. The mob of people go off and they run into a guy named Cinna the poet. Remember, there is a conspirator named Cinna. The people think it’s him so they yell "Tear him to pieces" Cinna says no…I am a poet, but the crowd doesn’t care they just want blood so they kill him.

Now it’s Antony, Octavius, and this guy Lepidus together trying to take control and kill the conspirators. They are killing anyone in their way. Meanwhile, Brutus and Cassius are outside of Rome at a place called Sardis with an army. They are arguing because Brutus condemned a friend of Cassius’ for taking bribes and Cassius feels that Brutus should lighten up. You see, Brutus is someone who believes in lofty principles and Cassius is more of a realistic type of a person. Cassius is mad because this guy who accepted the bribes was a good friend of his. Then Brutus tells Cassius how his wife committed suicide because she couldn’t take all the stress. He says she "swallowed fire" meaning she swallowed coals. Not a nice way to die. One possibility is a form of poison. Finally they forgive each other and make up. Then, two guys Titinius and Messala come by and tell how Antony and Octavius have been killing all these Roman Senators and are moving their army to Phillipi to meet Cassius and Brutus.

Then, the ghost of Caesar comes to Brutus and tells him he will see him at Phillipi for revenge. This foreshadows that Brutus and Cassius are going to lose. The next day, Antony and Octavius and Brutus and Cassius come out and argue on the battlefield. Then the battle begins.

The next scene takes place with Cassius and Titinius. Cassius has been fighting against Antony’s army and is losing while Brutus has been fighting against Octavius and is winning. Brutus sends his friend Mesalla to go tell Cassius that he is winning. Meanwhile, Cassius is retreating up this hill and sends his friend Titinius to see if the approaching troops are friends or enemies. He asks his servant, Pindarus what he sees, and Pindarus tells him that Titinius has been captured, so Cassius tells Pindarus to kill him. Pindarus stabs Cassius with the same dagger Cassius used to kill Caesar and he dies (Isn’t that ironic or is it Caesar's ghost having his revenge?). Then, Titinius comes riding up with Messala, Brutus’s friend. The troops were friendly and were coming to say Brutus is winning. So, Cassius really screwed up. Too late, he is dead. Messala leaves to go get Brutus, and Titinius kills himself next to Cassius. Brutus comes and sees Cassius dead and is sad. Then Brutus goes off to fight again, but this time he is losing. He is about to be captured when he tells his friend Volumnius to kill him, but Volumnius won’t do it. So, Brutus stabs himself and dies.

This is the last part. Octavius lets all of Brutus’ men surrender and join him. Antony finds Brutus dead and makes a speech about how Brutus was the "noblest Roman of them all". The End.

ACT BY ACT/SCENE BY SCENE

Act I

Scene 1

  • Flavius and Marullus, the two Roman Tribunes argue with the people celebrating Caesar’s victory.

Scene 2

  • Caesar is warned by the soothsayer, beware the Ides of March
  • Cassius and Brutus talk about how bad it would be for Caesar to be king.
  • Caesar is unhappy and suspicious of Cassius.
  • Casca tells Cassius and Brutus how Caesar turned down the crown three times but he was just playing to the crowd

Scene 3

  • Cassius convinces Casca to help him kill Caesar
  • Then Cinna, Casca, and Cassius talk about how they need to get Brutus to join their conspiracy
  • Cinna goes to take a message to throw through Brutus’ window

 

Act 2

Scene 1

  • Brutus is up late at his house thinking about Caesar.
  • He reads the message thrown through his window.
  • Then the conspirators come over and get Brutus on board with the assignation
  • They take off and Brutus’ wife Portia wants to know what’s going on
  • Then Brutus leaves to go do his dirty work

Scene 2

  • Caesar is at his house with his wife.
  • She had some bad dreams and wants him to stay home today…the Ides of March
  • He is supposed to be crowned King by the Senate today but he says he will say he is sick.
  • The conspirators come and convince Caesar to go to the Capitol with them.

Scene 3

  • Caesar’s friend or lover Atremidorus writes a note to Caesar to beware Brutus and Cassius.

Scene 4

  • Brutus’ wife is at home and all worried because she knows the assassination is going down.
  • She talks to the Soothsayer who is on his way to talk to Caesar.

Act 3

Scene 1

  • Caesar and the conspirators are on their way to the capitol.
  • The soothsayer warns Caesar again.
  • Atremidorus tries to give Caesar his note but gets brushed aside by Cassius.
  • Caesar starts to make a speech to the Senate and then he gets stabbed
  • Brutus is the last one to stab and Caesar says…et tu, Brute? (you too, Brutus?)
  • All the conspirators go around yelling freedom and down with tyranny
  • Antony comes in and is really sad when he sees Caesar dead
  • He acts nice to the conspirators and shakes their hands
  • He asks if he can speak at the funeral and Brutus says yes although Cassius wants to say no
  • Then, when he is alone with the body, Antony plots his revenge.

Scene 2

  • Brutus speaks at the funeral and everyone supports him killing Caesar
  • Antony speaks and changes everyone’s mind so they are after the conspirators.
  • He reads Caesar’s will that says Caesar gave his money and land to the Roman people
  • They get all angry and start to riot

Scene 3

  • Cinna the poet is mistaken for Cinna the conspirator and the crowd tears him to pieces

Act 4

Scene 1

  • Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus are planning how to take revenge for Caesar’s death
  • They are listing all the people to execute.

Scene 2

  • This scene takes place in Sardis at the tent of Brutus
  • Cassius arrives and tells Brutus he has done him wrong.

Scene 3

  • This scene takes place in Brutus’ tent.
  • Cassius and Brutus argue over the guy who took a bribe
  • Brutus is all moralistic. Cassius is mad because the guy is a friend.
  • Brutus tells Cassius that his wife Portia committed suicide.
  • Then they finally make up
  • Then their friends tell them that Antony and Octavius are coming with an army.
  • Then the ghost of Caesar visits Brutus and says he will get revenge.

Act 5

Scene 1

  • Octavius and Antony argue with Brutus and Cassius on the battlefield before the fighting starts.
  • They insult each other.
  • Then the battle starts.

Scene 2

  • Brutus tells Messala to ride and tell Cassius he is beating Octavius

Scene 3

  • Cassius is retreating up a hill and tells Titinius to go see if the troops coming are friendly or enemy.
  • Cassius’ servant Pindarus tells Cassius that Titinius has been captured.
  • Cassius is really bummed so he has Pindarus stab him with the same dagger he used to kill Caesar
  • Titinius returns with Messala to find Brutus dead
  • Messala leaves to go get Brutus
  • Titinius kills himself next to Cassius
  • Brutus comes and sees Cassius dead and is sad.

Scene 4

  • Brutus keeps fighting with his friends
  • The enemy is trying to capture Brutus.
  • They have him surrounded and go off to tell Antony Brutus is captured.

Scene 5

  • Brutus realizes he going to be captured so he asks his friend Volumnius to stab him.
  • Volumnius won’t and leaves so Brutus kills himself.
  • Octavius allows Brutus’ men to surrender and join him
  • Antony says some nice words over Brutus’ dead body

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART

  • This is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.
  • At the time this was being first performed, people liked having a king or queen in England. They were into the Monarchy.
  • Caesar would have been a character that people liked. They would not have liked Cassius and the conspirators.
  • Although Brutus makes the killing of Caesar out to be necessary and a noble act, it is very bloody and makes Caesar a "sympathetic" character.
  • Is it right or wrong to kill someone for political reasons?
  • Brutus is a Stoic. Stoicism is a kind of philosophical belief. Basically, you don’t let the bad things in life bring you down by keeping a cold, unemotional outlook on life. When Brutus tells Cassius about his wife’s suicide, he is not very emotional and doesn’t think about it.
  • Brutus is constantly convincing himself as well as everyone around him about the nobility of his actions. Sometimes, you wonder if he has a grasp on reality.
  • Brutus can either be seen as Antony says, "The noblest Roman of them all" or a guy who is so caught up in his idea of nobility and honor that he can’t see straight.
  • Fate, like many of Shakespeare’s plays, is a big factor in this play. The Ides of March is the warning that comes true.